Ubuntu has revealed its new brand identity, and apparently it’s driven by the theme “light”. My initial thoughts are that while almost any step is likely a good one, I’m not overly enthusiastic about it. Maybe, and hopefully, that will change.
Perhaps the first point I’d make is that while Ubuntu has never really committed to a specific audience (other than ‘everyone’), at least the “Linux for Human Beings” tagline gave a shred of something to shoot for. With the new identity apparently being inspired by the theme “light”, I’m even less confident they’re looking for a specific audience. We’ve steered away from humans and turned toward the abstract concept of light. I’d be glad for someone to spell out exactly what this means in terms of audience.
Onto one man’s brief appraisal of the work:
The typeface is significantly nicer than in the original noodlefont wordmark. It’s modern, with a nice big x-height, I can’t help but think it’s in the netherworld between something lightweight and something heavy. I think a thinner, lighter font would have served it better. It’s not unattractive, but not inspiring or committed either. People who know much more than me about type seem to cautiously approve.
The logo – ahh.. the logo. I feel that the encasing circle weakens it. At that size I can understand why they would need to circle in order to make the placement next to the wordmark work better. But it’s a bit player now. It gives off the smell of ‘afterthought’ to me.
Like the aforementioned Jay, I think the spreadubuntu image unfortunately hits home illustrating exactly how bad the initial typeface actually was:
It’s almost as if they wanted to spell out what a big improvement this was. If nothing else, the spreadubuntu logo does just that.
While the colours on the branding identity page are inconsistent (Jay does a great job of showcasing this btw), I think they’re still unique and likely to be ridiculed en masse by the same people who ridiculed the brown. This is not a bad thing. I think the new colours could be used to good effect. I’m sincerely glad it’s not blue – not because I personally hate blue, but because the new tones are unique and provide a far easier avenue to differentiate the identity.
The Window Decorations:
Moving the window decorations to the top left will undoubtedly (and not entirely unjustly) make people scream Apple Copycats!
But they will quickly see that it’s a poorly executed copy at that. Besides the spacing issue, the button trough and buttons themselves are heavy handed and something reminiscent of a theme you’d see on wincustomize.com. The buttons are inconsistent in look as well, which is hard to understand. And where is the lightness? Perhaps if losing the trough is a no-go, then scalloping it between buttons would be a band aid. Still, the uniqueness and execution of the decorations in the current Karmic Dust theme is miles ahead in my mind:
The bootsplash screen is in my mind, no better or worse than the current one. However for me, it’s all in the transition to the desktop. The bootsplash does however reinforce my belief that the logo treatment (circled superscript) doesn’t work well. Again there’s nothing that says ‘lightness’ to me. Maybe the actual bootsplash in action will change my tune. I still think the progress bar motif is uninspired. Troy’s wonderful boot animatic shows a completely unique and inventive alternative to the standard horizontal progress bar. Are finger’s getting cut off for reaching too far afield here?
The Web Identity:
As others have noted, perhaps the new look website is the biggest positive to be had out of this whole thing:
It’s not all positive, but if ‘lightness’ is somehow your mantra, then the site mockup serves it better than anything else I’ve covered here. It’s far from unique, but it’s a big improvement. It’s a lot more ‘serious’ feeling whatever that means.
You’ve got to wonder though that if you’re consistently told what you’ve done is a huge improvement over your current work, you walk away thinking you’ve either made big strides, or your initial work was tremendously shit. Personally I think it’s a bit of both. It’s an improvement, but there is a long long way to go.
Assorted Gripes and Pessimism:
Other than the window decorations, I’ve steered away from commenting on the Gtk related stuff itself. I’m becoming more and more worried about the rounded-rectangle, grey gradient, tango-esque, big-ass padding and even bigger-ass button style that is predominating our little end of UI design lately. That’s a whole series of blog posts unto itself. As the weeks and months roll by, I can’t help but think sometimes that we’re standing here patting ourselves on the back [**], cranking out cartoonish window decorations, and even more cartoonish icons when the big lumbering giant is doing completely different things with UI design. While we’re busy re-working what we already have with no clear goal, I’m afraid we’ll wake up next year with our hands full of all this stuff while the others have simply moved onward and upward.
Sorry to end in a flurry of pessimism, but we need inspiring design to beat the big boys. This re-branding doesn’t show much sign of that.
** For those that may have trouble following along. This is a link to a post that has a series of photos about Gnome UX Hackfest 2010. (It is not the official page for the event – which is here). Indeed there are a series of blog posts there describing the happenings at Gnome UX Hackfest. Please go there and read the series of posts if you’re interested. Make up your own mind about how you think Gnome UI design is going. If you disagree with me, please PLEASE post about it. You can even link back to me and call me an idiot. I really don’t care. I’m pretty sure the people who read my blog can follow links and have their own opinion. Several people in the comments to this post apparently do not, so I added this little note to spell things out.